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The Edge of Terrorism

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Iraq Prison BreakOut Frees Hundreds of Al Qaeda Terrorists

July 23rd 2013

Revolutionary Guards

Iraqi security forces locked down areas around the infamous Abu Ghraib prison and another high-security detention facility on Baghdad's outskirts Monday to hunt for escaped inmates and militants after daring insurgent assaults set hundreds of detainees free.

The carefully orchestrated late-night attacks killed dozens Sunday, including at least 25 members of the Iraqi security forces. Insurgents fired dozens of mortar shells and detonated suicide and car bombs, drawing Iraqi forces into firefights that lasted more than an hour.

The prison break of hundreds of prisoners from Abu Ghraib was been helped by guards working with the attackers, according to the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The ministry said in a statement that its senior officials along with senior Ministry of Defense officials had briefed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on the attack on the Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons. More than 50 people, including 26 guards and Iraqi soldiers were killed in gunmen attacks accompanied by suicide bombers late Sunday.

"There has been a conspiracy between some of the guards of both prisons and the terrorist gangs that attacked the prisons. That was one of the main reasons for the escalation of events which led to these consequences," the statement read. The Ministry of Justice said 260 prisoners escaped from Abu Ghraib, on the western outskirts of Baghdad. Officials said yesterday 500 had originally been freed but security forces managed to recapture about 150 of them.

A manhunt is still under way for tens of inmates, including high-ranking al-Qaeda members, most of whom received death sentences. Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said that this was the most serious challenge from al-Qaeda the government has faced in years. "This is a group they thought they had dismantled," our correspondent said.

The attacks on the prisons came a year after al-Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate announced it would target the justice system.

"The first priority in this is releasing Muslim prisoners everywhere, and chasing and eliminating judges and investigators and their guards," said an audio message attributed to the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in July last year.

Prisons in Iraq are periodically hit by escape attempts, uprisings and other unrest. Abu Ghraib became notorious after photographs showing Iraqi detainees being humiliated and abused by their US guards were published in 2004. It also served as a torture centre under Saddam Hussein's ousted regime.


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